Everyone in the team states their goal for the retrospective, i.e. what they want out of the meeting. Examples of what participants might say:
I'm happy if we get 1 good action item
I want to talk about our argument about unit tests and agree on how we'll do it in the future
I'll consider this retro a success, if we come up with a plan to tidy up $obscureModule
[You can check if these goals were met if you close with activity #14.]
[The Meet - Core Protocol, which inspired this activity, also describes 'Alignment Checks': Whenever someone thinks the retrospective is not meeting people's needs they can ask for an Alignment Check. Then everyone says a number from 0 to 10 which reflects how much they are getting what they want. The person with the lowest number takes over to get nearer to what they want.]
This is a round-based activity. In each round you ask the team a question, they write down their answers (gives everyone time to think) and then read them out to the others. Questions proposed for Software Development teams:
When was the last time you were really engaged / animated / productive? What did you do? What had happened? How did it feel?
From an application-/code-perspective: What is the awesomest stuff you've built together? What makes it great?
Of the things you built for this company, which has the most value? Why?
When did you work best with the Product Owner? What was good about it?
When was your collaboration best?
What was your most valuable contribution to the developer community (of this company)? How did you do it?
Leave your modesty at the door: What is the most valuable skill / character trait you contribute to the team? Examples?
What is your team's most important trait? What sets you apart?
('Remember the Future' (#37) works well as the next step.)
Prepare a flip chart with 3 columns titled 'What', 'Who', and 'Due'. Ask one participant after the other, what they want to do to advance the team. Write down the task, agree on a 'done by'-date and let them sign their name. If someone suggests an action for the whole team, the proposer needs to get buy-in (and signatures) from the others.
Prepare 3 flip chart papers titled 'Helped', 'Hindered', and 'Hypothesis' (suggestions for things to try out). Ask participants to help you grow and improve as a facilitator by writing you sticky notes and signing their initials so that you may ask questions later.